Last updated in June 2016
The Federal Republic of Germany established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cyprus on 20 August 1960, shortly after the country gained independence on 16 August 1960. There is close and trustful cooperation between the two countries at government level. Cyprus’ accession to the European Union on 1 May 2004 gave relations between the two countries a new political dimension. Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle visited Cyprus on 22 and 23 July 2010 and Federal Chancellor Merkel also paid a visit on 11 January 2011. Cyprus’s President Anastasiades visited Berlin and Hamburg in May 2014. This highly successful trip was the first official visit to Germany by a Cypriot head of state in more than 20 years. Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office Michael Roth paid a visit to Cyprus in September 2014.
There is also a lively exchange between the two countries at political party and parliamentary level. In her capacity as CDU party chair, Angela Merkel attended the European People’s Party (EPP) meeting in Limassol on 11 January 2013 at the invitation of Nikos Anastasiades, President of the Democratic Rally party (DISY). The German Bundestag’s German-Cypriot Parliamentary Friendship Group visited Cyprus in October 2011 and March 2015. There were also visits to Cyprus by the German Bundestag’s Committee on the Affairs of the European Union in July 2012, Bundestag President Lammert in April 2013, Bundestag Vice-President Singhammer in October 2014, the Bundestag’s Committee on Economics and Technology in March and its Finance Committee in April 2013.
Turkey’s 1974 military intervention in the north of the island effectively divided the country in two. Germany does not maintain official relations with the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (recognised only by Turkey) but has wide-ranging contacts with representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community at political and cultural level.
Soon after Cyprus gained its independence, a trade and economic agreement was concluded between the two countries (1961), followed by an air transport agreement (1967), a double taxation agreement (1974) and an agreement on cross-border passenger and freight transport (1980). From 1987 onwards, the bulk of these agreements became EU law which, since Cyprus accession to the EU on 1 May 2004, now also applies in Cyprus. The new double taxation agreement entered into force on 16 December 2011 and was effective as of 1 January 2012.
In 2015, German imports from Cyprus remained modest, with goods worth EUR 111.2 million being imported. German exports to Cyprus fell in 2015 compared with the previous year, from EUR 571.7 million in 2014 to EUR 556.5 million in 2015. Germany’s principal exports to Cyrus included electronic goods, chemical products, motor vehicles and vehicle parts, food, machinery and non-ferrous metals.
In tourism, an important sector for Cyprus, Germany ranked fourth in 2015, with just under 112,000 visitors, after the United Kingdom (approximately 1 million visitors), Russia (approximately 500,000) and Greece (approximately 140,000).
There is especially close cooperation between Cyprus and Germany in the shipping sector, which is based in Limassol. This sector accounts for more than seven per cent of the country’s GDP. Cyprus operates the world’s tenth largest fleet (currently numbering 2,400 vessels). The shipping industry provides some 4,500 onshore jobs and employs approximately 55,000 seafarers.
The banking, financial services (and related) sectors are disproportionately important to Cyprus’ economy. Following the memorandum of understanding between Cyprus and the Troika (EU Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank) on ways to overcome the economic and financial crisis, the country’s financial sector is undergoing a process of restructuring and consolidation, shrinking considerably in size. There are no German banks with branches in Cyprus.
Germany maintains close cultural relations to both ethnic communities on the island as well as to the autochthonous Maronite community. The cornerstone of cultural relations between Germany and Cyprus is the Goethe Institute in Nicosia, which was re-opened in July 2011 after being closed for more than ten years. There is also a German-Cypriot Cultural Association, which cooperates closely with the Goethe Institute and the German Embassy in Nicosia, and a German-Turkish Cypriot Cultural Association. Other German-Cypriot organisations (German teachers’ and alumni associations) contribute to German cultural offerings on the island. A cultural agreement with the Republic of Cyprus was concluded in 1971.
An important event was the restitution of 170 frescoes and icons in October 2013. The works of art had been stolen from Cypriot churches in the 1970s and found by the Bavarian police in Munich in 1997 (the so-called Dikmen case). This represents the most significant restitution of stolen artworks so far in Cyprus’ history. The icons are currently on display in an annex to the Byzantine Museum in Nicosia and can be viewed on request.
In recent years, Germany has become attractive as a study destination for Cypriot students, academics and researchers, thanks to its low tuition fees, high quality of education and good career opportunities. Many Cypriots from the country’s two ethnic communities have studied in Germany, often with scholarships from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and other funding agencies. An Institute for Interdisciplinary Cypriot Studies was established at the University of Münster in 1997 and there has been a DAAD lectureship at the University of Cyprus since the 2003 winter semester, which has since become an integral part of the university. The DAAD lecturer is supported by a German language assistant. Additional German lecturers at other higher education institutions, including in the northern part of the island, are helping to intensify existing academic contacts, foster new ones and promote interest in studying in Germany.
The Republic of Cyprus has also made it more attractive for German students to study there. In addition to the country’s state universities (the University of Cyprus in Nicosia and the Cyprus University of Technology in Limassol), a number of private higher education institutions also participate in exchange programmes with German and European partner universities.
Bilateral academic and scientific cooperation is intensifying, for example between the Max Planck Society and the Cyprus Institute. Germans are among the researchers working at the prestigious Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics in Nicosia.
In 2004, an agreement on mutual recognition of university degrees (equivalency agreement) was signed. This is designed to facilitate Cypriot and German students’ admission to German and Cypriot universities and the subsequent recognition of university degrees obtained at these institutions in the respective partner country.
In recent years, German as a foreign language has gained popularity among Greek Cypriots. There is a keen demand for the Goethe Institute’s language courses and at schools the number of students opting to learn German as a foreign language is on the increase. German can also be chosen as the second or third foreign language at schools in the northern part of the island. After declining for several years, interest in German as a foreign language has increased again slightly there, with private schools in particular increasingly offering German instruction.